MACON, Ga. -- A match-up of two of the highest scoring teams in the nation lived up to its billing on Saturday as Mercer outlasted Jacksonville 45-42.
Jacksonville (4-6; 3-4) racked up 637 yards of total offense, but it was three turnovers that proved to be costly for the Dolphins. Quarterback Kade Bell once again set the tone passing for a career high 405 yards and rushing for a career best 69 yards. Running back Frantz Caudio also had a big day with a career best 89 yards and three touchdowns.
Mercer (9-1; 5-1) looked to put the game away with 21 unanswered points in the second half, before Bell rallied the Dolphins back. First he orchestrated a 14 play, 88 yard drive that including a 23 yard rush down to the one yard line. Caudio took it in from there with his third touchdown run of the day to cut the deficit to three with just under three minutes to play.
Jacksonville’s onside kick proved to be unsuccessful, but the defense held it ground and forced a Mercer punt. The Dolphins would take over with 2:09 remaining on their own three yard line. Bell found Adrian Riley, Andrew Robustelli and D’Andre Randle for first downs as they moved the offense into Bears territory.
With just over a minute to go, Bell was then sacked and the fumble was recovered by Mercer which sealed the game.
At the start of the game Mercer scored on its opening drive before Jacksonville answered back and opened up a 21-7 lead with 11:49 left in the opening half. Randle started the stretch by hauling in his eighth touchdown of the year on a 30 yard pass from Bell. On the Dolphins next possession, Caudio capped off an 11 play, 80 yard drive with a six yard run on the opening play of the second quarter. Johnnie Hicks extended the lead for Jacksonville at the 11:49 mark of the quarter when he scampered in from three yards out. Hicks TD run was set up by a 49 yard pass from Bell to Orlando Thomas on the opening play of the series.
The Bears wouldn’t go away quietly however. On their next drive quarterback John Russ ran in for his second touchdown of the half to cut the Dolphins lead to 21-14. Jacksonville appeared to be headed to the endzone again on the next possession, but an interception by Mercer in at the goal line was returned 69 yards and set up a 24 yard touchdown pass by Russ to knot the score at 21-21 with 4:48 to go in the quarter.
After gaining great field position at the Mercer 46 on the ensuing kickoff, the Dolphins used the clock putting together an other 11 play scoring drive. Caudio capped off the drive with a one yard score on fourth and one as time expired in the first half to give Jacksonville a 28-21 lead at the break.
The Bears added a 26 yard field goal on their opening drive of the second half, which was answered by Riley. He would put the Dolphins ahead 35-24 as he finished off a seven play, 70 yard drive with an 18 yard catch from Bell.
Following a 36 yard field goal that sailed wide right for the Dolphins, Mercer drove 80 yards in 10 plays to cut the Jacksonville lead to 35-31 with 1:21 left in the third. Capitalizing on a Dolphins interception, Mercer retook the lead at 38-35 on an 18 yard touchdown pass from Rush with 10:02 remaining. One possession later the Bears struck again as a successful flea-flicker ended with a 33 yard touchdown.
The Dolphins close out the 2013 season at home next Saturday as Stetson visits D.B. Milne Field for a 1:00 pm start. It will be Hall of Fame Day for Jacksonville Athletics. Catch all the action on 92.5 FM.
• Andrew Robustelli became JU’s single season receiving yards leader; Robustelli now has 962 yards as he past Josh Philpart’s previous record of 912 (2009)
• Maroa White had one sack to bring his season total to nine giving him the most by a JU player since Shaun Lewis had 10 in 2008
• Frantz Caudio is the first JU player to have 3 rushing TDs in a single game since JJ Laster in a 21-7 win at Marist on Oct 01, 2011
• Jacksonville's 637 yards of total offense are the fourth highest total in school history and the sixth time this season over 500 yards